The journey out to Arkansas’ most remote brewery took me over four months to make. As I turned down the gravel road I began seriously questioning the trip, and not even real sure if I was in the right place since my phone connection cut out about a mile back and I was driving without GPS.
Halfway tucked into the trees I see a sign for Prestonrose Farm and Brewery. Up the hill the woods give way to a small house, old barn, a few metal buildings and a beautiful patch of land with greenhouses and rows of crops.
If you have visited many craft breweries across the state, this is not what you have come to expect. It is not a place that is going to be stop 4 in your brewery walk night with friends like you will in downtown Little Rock. It is not going to be your pit stop while riding the bike trails in Northwest Arkansas.
It is a pilgrimage for beer lovers. It is the journey you plan for 4 months and when you finally pull up you are still not sure if you really made it, but you are glad you did.
“We could easily go and put a tap room or a brewery in Fort Smith, Little Rock, or somewhere in Northwest Arkansas,” owner Liz Preston tells us. “I think we would still be a very good brewery doing that. There is something special about being out here next to the produce we grow for the beers. It also gives so much more back to the surrounding community, it gives people a reason to visit Paris Arkansas.”
The brewery is located just outside Paris, which is about a 20 minute detour(one way) if you are driving Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Fort Smith. From the brewery you can see the hills leading to Mount Magazine in the distance.
The setting is more reminiscent of wine country where the tasting room is set in the middle of the vineyard than a typical industrial building brewery. The brewery itself is just a small metal building consisting only of a small row of taps, a 1 barrel brewing setup, and a fermentation room. It is brewing stripped down to the most simple form, yet oddly elegant.
Like many vineyards, there is no onsite consumption. They offer tastings of all their beers on tap, usually 3-4 at any given time, and you can fill your growler to take home.
What makes the location special is a walk around the property with your sample pour. The farm originated from the early 30’s from the Rose family. They farmed the location until the 90’s. Liz, and her husband Mike Preston, had dreamed of owning an organic farm and tried to establish one in upstate New York before settling in Arkansas.
“We were excited about upstate New York, there were really good crops being produced there,” Liz Preston tells us. “We go to the first farmers market and it was almost barren. We start asking around and find that all the good produce is being shipped to the large cities nearby like New York. I really wanted a place where we could grow crops and use it to impact the surrounding community, not just feed the major cities. It was a lot of what led us to Arkansas.”
From the farm Preston uses a wide variety of produce, herbs, and is even experimenting with growing hops that all go into the beers produced at Prestonrose. Other crops are sold in the Paris Farmer’s market, and Preston hopes to start selling directly at the brewery soon now that there is a steady stream of guest visiting.
In fact, the success of the brewery has been more than they could have imagined. Their 3-5 year plan of renovating an existing barn into a larger brewery, tap room, and restaurant is being accelerated to start this upcoming spring. They hope to retain the entire look of the building for the new spot, something that will allow them to expand brewing operations and allow for people to stay longer.
They also hope to renovate a few existing buildings into Airbnb rentals, something that would make the farm/brewery even more of a destination.
As for the beer itself, it is really good. Not just a “I drove 2 hours to get here and I am thirsty” good, but beer that holds its own against any other in the state. A good portion of that comes from Liz’s biology background, before farming she earned a degree in biology and worked for several years in a molecular ecology lab.
Liz’s understanding of biology and produce shines through in every conversation. She carefully selects different heirloom varieties of her produce to use in the beer. It creates very interesting flavor profiles that are completely unique to Prestonrose and adds a complexity that beer lovers will enjoy.
Prestonrose has developed around 60 different beer varieties so far, more often than not flavoring with fresh produce from the surrounding farm. Each of the single barrels of beer they produce are just a little different, meaning you really should stop by anytime you are in the general area. Their beer rarely leaves the brewery outside of a few festivals and the very occasional tap takeover.
It is worth the pilgrimage, and any beer lover should make it. Besides the fact that they are producing some of the finest beer in the state, it is an experience like no other.
Prestonrose Farm and Brewery
201 St Louis Valley Rd Paris, Arkansas
Open: Thurs-Saturday: 4-8; Sunday 12-4